On the first day of training camp for the Missouri Comets, first-year head coach Vlatko Andonovski found two very important missing pieces to the team's puzzle.
The Comets announced early Wednesday the signings of Leo Gibson and Byron Alvarez for the 2013-14 season. Per team and league policies, the terms of the contracts were not announced.
“This is an offensive game,” Andonovski said. “These players have literally written the record books for the Comets in their three seasons with the team and will be very important to us this season.”
Alvarez was born in Mexico but became a naturalized U.S. citizen last year. After his career in Mexico, he began his U.S. career with Major League Soccer's New York MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) in 2002.
He then played in 96 games for the Portland Timbers, who were then members of the United Soccer League’s First Division in 2003. His indoor career started with the Chicago Storm of the MISL. In 2009 he played a pivotal role with Monterrey La Raza on its way to that season's championship.
Alvarez signed with the Comets for the team's inaugural 2010-11 season. He scored a league-high 80 points, including 33 goals and 12 assists, and earned the league's Golden Boot and MVP awards. He followed that by scoring nearly 30 goals in each of the past two seasons. He holds the modern Comets record for career goals (93) and points (232).
Alvarez has played 76 games for the Comets in three years. In that time he has had a hand in a team-best 266 points. with five three-point goals, 102 two-point goals and 47 assists.
Gibson, who is originally from Liberia, moved to the United States in 2002 and became a naturalized citizen earlier this year. He played soccer briefly at King College in Bristol, Tenn., before signing to play outdoor soccer with the Minnesota Thunder of the USL First Division in 2005.
Gibson then went to play for the Detroit Ignition of the Xtreme Soccer League. In 21 games, Gibson scored 12 goals for the Ignition. He then went on to spend a season with the Cleveland City Stars, Philadelphia Kixx and the Charlotte Eagles, tallying 20 goals in 43 games.
Gibson signed with the Comets in 2010. He started as a forward and won MISL Offensive Player of the Month before an injury forced a midseason move to the back line. Despite playing on the backline he had 51 points and 22 blocks over 23 games. In the 2011-12 season he totaled 21 blocks and 54 shots.
Last season, Gibson was a key player in the Comets' run to the championship match, with 71 points, 25 two-point goals and 44 blocks over 28 games. The highlight of the season for Gibson was Jan. 19 when he set a Comets and MISL record with a 16-point effort. His six goals and two assists helped lead the Comets to a crucial 30-17 victory over the Rochester Lancers.
Gibson has been named to the All-MISL first team twice and All-MISL second team once in his three years with the Comets.